Seturumane urges women to get over their fears

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Limpho Sello

WOMEN must get over their fears if they are to entertain any hopes of succeeding in the business world, leading entrepreneur Matokelo Seturumane has said.

Herself as success story in the male dominated business world, Ms Seturumane is the managing director of Thaba-Bosiu Risk Solutions, one of the leading insurance brokers in the kingdom.

The third of eight children, Ms Seturumane was born and bred in Ha-Motṧoane in Leribe district.

While Lesotho is known for its poor service culture, Ms Seturumane has carved a niche for her exceptional service.

“I am passionate about service excellence and most of my clients; if not all, love me for serving them with passion,” said the business lady who also has interests in farming.

“I also love empowering people especially women but my strong business discipline is always mistaken for being too harsh. I am a go getter and I don’t take no for any answer in the business world.”

Ms Seturumane started off as a receptionist at the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in the early 1980s. She however, found herself managing the shipping department of the company.

She had to investigate pilferage and ensure that their transporters would pay for the losses.

“The bulk of shortages were on the rail. My duty involved meeting with South African Railways to argue my case until the payments were effected.”

The programme was fazed out in 1989 and she found herself looking for a job. She got one at South African insurance company, Thebe Hosken as a claims clerk and rose in ranks until 1998 when she was appointed to the board of directors.

“I was the only woman and the only black board member. When I first joined the insurance industry, I had no clue what insurance was all about except that I must have a funeral policy.

“During Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) in South Africa, Thebe Hosken started selling shares to black people. Outside South Africa, they decided to empower local people. In Lesotho they decided to sell their whole book to their employees. I accepted the challenge and on 1 April 2006, Thaba-Bosiu Risk Solutions opened its doors.”

While conceding that there is progress in the number of women in topo posts in the economy, Ms Seturumane said the pace was still slow.

“Change is coming, very slowly. The overall number of women in top business roles is still painfully low but we must be optimistic.

“The emergence of female leaders can become a centrifugal force for good in the world. For the first time, we’re seeing examples of female leaders emerging from across the generations to cross-weave their knowledge and drive for change.

“If we take the environment and climate as an example, someone as experienced and respected as Jane Goodall is standing alongside teenage activists like Greta Thunberg. Importantly, there are now ambitious and capable women running influential organisations who can activate physical change through technology and policy.”

For Ms Seturumane, women empowerment is a collective duty that must be done by all including schools and universities who must ensure that women are encouraged to take up posts that were previously considered preserves for males.

The same model must be employed in careers like technology that were previously known to be space for men. She also thinks brands and companies that remain stuck in old stereotypes will be left behind.

Similarly, she also thinks the fight against gender-based violence (GBV) should be started at the grassroots.

“Women are the mothers of the victims and perpetrators of violence and I tend to think we may have failed our job in raising our boys… Defeating GBV requires us to go back to the drawing board. As a society, we must protect each other. We must teach our boys respect for human life. But we also need our government to assist with enhancing the efficiency of the justice system.”

Ms Seturumane also feels that women must do better in informal networking which always benefits them later in their careers.

“Men are always at an advantage as they have informal network groups which they have developed earlier in their career path. On the other hand, women are restricted to the kitchen.”

Nevertheless, she insists that one of the biggest enemies that women must defeat is fear.

“Fear is the number one enemy to most of people. Especially those who read their bibles like novels. Read your bible repeatedly and slowly. You will know that God brought you for a purpose in this world. Therefore, you must fear not (Isaiah 41:10).

“Set your goals and never be afraid. Stay committed, focused and determined. It allows us to not depend on approval or validation from others and helps us continue to grow and become more successful.

“Develop thick skin – but remain approachable. One of the hardest parts of being a successful woman in any profession is that women live in a world that doesn’t appreciate successful women. Driven and successful women are often looked down upon and their success minimalised. In a world that holds very few seats for women at the table of importance – it is important to take a seat (or pull up a chair) anyhow. A thick skin is one of the hardest and yet most valuable things a woman in any profession can have – but staying approachable is just as important.”

And her parting shot, “women entrepreneurs must learn to say no”.

“No to bad decisions, no to bad offers, no to time restrictions- even the hard task of saying no in fear of seeming rude. Women can’t do everything and have a chance to grow and develop their businesses. Learning to say no allows us to become comfortable with discomfort and how we can learn to tolerate that pain, rather than feel the need to eliminate it,” Ms Seturumane said.

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